Subconscious Versus Unconscious Mind

Subconscious Versus Unconscious Mind

The Conscious, Subconscious, and Unconscious Mind have been promoted since Sigmund Freud's emphasis on psychoanalysis. 

But no one - including Freud - can really agree on the differences of these parts or where to find them.

In this article, we'll look at what we do know about these parts of consciousness, the 95% rule (and the danger of giving it too much power), and how we use these concepts in Tarot Therapy. 

The Conscious Mind

The Conscious Mind is the one we are most aware of. We want to start here so that we have something familiar to compare the other types of mind to.

The Conscious Mind is described as the “tip of the iceberg.” You may have seen this analogy before if you've ever studied psychology or philosophical theories.

This is the area that can be seen above the water line. Comparatively, this area is relatively small compared to the area below the water line that cannot be easily seen.

The Conscious Mind includes everything that you are aware of right now and everything that you know that you are thinking about.

This includes your thoughts and feelings that you are aware of as well as what you can see, hear, taste, and smell.

This might include things like:

  • The beauty of a flower you put at your desk
  • Being aware of the traffic going by outside your window
  • Feeling your kitten or dog’s nose and soft fur as they rub against your leg
  • Thinking about what you want to have for dinner
  • Feeling a crick in your back and neck and needing to stretch

Your Conscious Mind is an important part of your existence, and it plays a huge role in Mindfulness.

It is also limited in its capacity to take in, process, and be aware of information (one theory of autism is that the Conscious Mind is super aware and overloaded), and similar to short-term memory.

Some people have argued that the Conscious Mind can be found in the cerebral cortex, even going so far as calling it the “seat of consciousness,” while others have argued that it is in the claustrum.

Still others believe the Conscious Mind is an overall network of the brain, like the internet. But others argue that even the internet has singular functionality, like specific websites, so there could be a central location. Or at least a WIFI adaptor that makes it all work together.

Finally, some people believe that the Conscious Mind is outside of the brain altogether. This isn’t just in spiritual practices like Science of Mind and Law of Attraction.

Experiments of Conscious Mind Influence

In 1802, Dr. Thomas Young devised the double-split experiment and demonstrated that light is not only particles but also waves.

From here, many scientists, especially in the field of quantum physics, have created experiments to test whether or not people can manipulate the wave form, the most famous being Bohm, 1952 and Cho 2017.

If you’re interested in these concepts, especially around light, you might also want to look into the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle from Quantum Physics.

You may have also heard of Masaru Emoto’s Water experiments. These have not been proven nor replicated and have been called "pseudoscience" by many. However, they represent the public's growing interest in the ability to influence nature and the World around us.

There have also been a number of plant studies that focus on positive thoughts, music, or speaking to plants in certain ways. IKEA even "bullied" a plant to test whether or not the energy would harm it. Again, these studies have a variety of conclusions and have not been consistently repeatable. 

These concepts around the influence of the Conscious Mind continue to be explored and measured. 

Subconscious and Unconscious Mind

Next we have the Subconscious Mind. Even though these ideas pre-date Freud by hundreds to even thousands of years, Freud made these concepts famous in the West. His ideas have heavily influenced how people perceive and relate to concepts of the mind.

At first, Freud used the terms Subconscious and Unconscious interchangeably. For years, many writings by psychologist, psychiatrists, biologists, and neurologists used the words interchangeably, and most wrote using the term "unconscious."

Even after all these years, there is still debate and no clearly defined definition between the two terms. Today, many people have problems with the word unconscious because of the physical concept of losing consciousness.

While these ideas change and don’t have an agreed-upon meaning, I find these following concepts helpful:

1. The subconscious is that part of consciousness that is not currently in focal awareness.

2. The unconscious mind consists of the processes in the mind that occur automatically and are not readily available to introspection, and include thought processes, memory, affect, and motivation. This includes Freudian Slips.

Whether or not these meanings are exact or not are less important to me than their usage in Tarot Therapy. That may sound blasphemous to some, but after decades spent in academia, as well as presenting at conferences including an APA Conference, this is my position.

Hair splitting is less important than practical application and results. I enjoy debate, but not always debate for debate’s sake.

Therefore, in Tarot Therapy I refer to the Subconscious Mind the majority of the time.

Understanding the Subconscious Mind

The Subconscious Mind is where your memories, thoughts, and feelings reside that you may not be aware of that are driving your conscious behaviors, thoughts, and feelings.

It is also where all of the different parts of your Inner Community reside, which we talk about in the Plural Mind Model.

The subconscious is where all of your pushed down emotions go as well. So if you practiced trying to be “high vibe only,” and repressed your so-called “negative” feelings, they are there just waiting to come back up.

Finally, the subconscious is responsible for many of your important bodily functions like making your heart beat, digestion, blood circulation, and breathing, some of which you can affect with conscious awareness.

The Subconscious and Unconscious are not structures and do not have neuromatic locations. Rather, they are overarching concepts that apply to a complex but familiar psychological phenomenon.

I tend to treat them as one concept because that is how it is easiest to access and use the ideas in Tarot Therapy. The goal is to bring awareness to our underlying thoughts, feelings, emotions, and memories so that we can overcome trauma and start to take better control of our lives.

Therefore, whether a feeling came from the subconscious or the unconscious really isn’t what’s important. What is important is knowing how that feeling might be having a negative impact on our life as well as knowing what to do about it.

How We View This In Tarot Therapy

In Tarot Therapy when we look at concepts and learning, we want to think of the end results.

Specifically, will knowing this information:

  • Empower myself or my client?
  • Help a person make positive changes in their lives?
  • Encourage someone to take actions that benefit their minds, their bodies, and their spiritual connection?

Learning concepts can be interesting to note, but too much time worrying about the nuances of information or spending an exorbitant amount of time nitpicking ideas can become a distraction from what needs to be done and also leads to so much academic indulgence.

Instead, we want to bring the conversation and focus back to how it applies to someone's life and how it can be helpful and empowering. 

Danger of the 95% Rule

In recent years, people have put more and more emphasis on an external locus of control, meaning that something outside of themselves has influence, power, and control over their lives, and this is no different in discussions around the Subconscious Mind.

When I was in undergrad, I started seeing claims stating that the Subconscious “controls” 70% of everything we do.

Over the years that number has steadily creeped up to 80%, then 90%, then 95%, and now online articles are claiming that more than 95% of your thoughts, feelings, emotions, and actions are a direct result of the subconscious.

I find this claim ridiculous for three main reasons:

  • People keep bumping the numbers up with absolutely no proof.
  • The concept that you can only influence 5% of your life is extremely disempowering, and it’s a lie.
  • The 95% Rule vilifies the Subconscious Mind, instead of recognizing how it is trying to support and protect you.

The idea that you can’t control your actions and responses leads to feeling hopeless, and contributes to a variety of mental health challenges.

It disregards the body of behavioral science as well as rationality. In short, it negates many concepts of consciousness entirely, and brings humans back down to the level of other animals.

The 95% “Rule” can also lead to making dangerous and misguided choices, as well as to illegal activity.

Mind The Gap

Between your Subconscious Mind and your actions, there is a moment where you can become aware of and acknowledge your belief about the situation. This moment generally lasts between 1-3 seconds, but it is there.

I call this the Gap, and frequently refer to “Mind the Gap,” meaning to bring yourself to the awareness of the situation and your ability to make a conscious decision. You can choose the actions you want to take.

The more you practice Tarot Therapy, the more ability you will have to recognize your Gaps. You may find that at times the Gaps feel longer and more easy.

You will start to see the choices that you have available to you. This does not always mean that you will choose the most positive outcome.

It does mean, however, that you will have more awareness around the situation and in time will begin to make different choices based on the outcomes you want in your life.

This is an ongoing practice, and you will continue to discover more throughout your life.

Note: Some clients are very opposed to the concept of having control over their reactions. They may or may not be suitable for Tarot Therapy or any type of therapy because of this close-minded nature.

The Subconscious Spread

Draw 3 cards to get more insight around your personal beliefs, concepts, and ideas about the Subconscious Mind and how it is impacting your life.

Card 1: The Subconscious Mind. This card represents your current perspective on the subconscious mind. It reflects your beliefs, feelings, and awareness about the hidden aspects of the psyche.

Card 2: Impact of the Subconscious. This card delves into how you perceive the influence of the subconscious mind on your life. It can reveal whether you see it as a source of strength and an asset, or as a hindrance. Or something in between.

Card 3: Navigate the Subconscious. This last card offers guidance on how you might navigate and harness the power of their subconscious mind for personal growth and positive transformation.

For more information on how you can use Tarot Spreads to overcome trauma and change your life, check out the Tarot Therapy Alliance. You'll find Case Studies, experiments, influential studies and theories from psychology, sociology, spirituality, quantum physics, and more. 

©Amethyst Mahoney, PhD and Limitless Abundance, LLC
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